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The Amulet of Samarkand

A book by Jonathan Stroud

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A delicous high speed flight of fancy!

  • Jan 23, 2011
At the tender age of six years, Nathaniel is taken from his parents and apprenticed as a learning magician to Arthur Underwood, a minor functionary in a dark and fantastical English government. This bleak London's parliamentarians and upper crust are members of a greedy, self-serving ruling class of magicians and everyone else is disparagingly referred to as a "commoner". When Nathaniel encounters Simon Lovelace, a brutal, ruthless magician whose ambition knows no limits, Lovelace chooses to openly display his terrifying power and publicly humiliates Nathaniel while Underwood stands meekly by doing nothing to defend his young charge who has barely begun to learn the rudiments of his magical craft. Angered beyond endurance, Nathaniel decides to secretly accelerate his own learning and begins to plot his revenge against Lovelace.

When he quietly masters one of the most difficult spells in a magician's repertoire, Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus, an ancient djinni (with a rather acerbic wit and a very dry sense of humour), and commands him to steal Lovelace's greatest treasure, The Amulet of Samarkand. Unaware that Lovelace was planning on putting the amulet to use in a treasonous coup to overthrow the government, Nathaniel finds himself trapped in a maelstrom of evil, espionage, murder and magical Royal Rumbles and is now pursued as the object of a merciless manhunt.

Much more than a mere Harry Potter wannabe knock-off, The Amulet of Samarkand treats us not only to a blazing quick page turner but also throws in a generous helping of more adult issues such as questioning the morality of class distinctions; the development of a resistance movement to a dictatorial government clearly interested in nothing more than the perpetuation of its own comfort and rule; and power lust, greed or altruism as motives for action.

Stroud's use of footnotes, far from being distracting is actually quite infectious. Bartimaeus, in the manner of a quietly comic George Burns, well aware of his own comedic skills, steps out of character and out of the story in the footnotes, to offer his own sotto voce observations and asides directly to the reading audience. Judiciously sprinkled throughout the novel, Stroud has kept their number and length at exactly the right level to ensure the high-speed plot is not dampened.

The happy ending of the story is not only wonderfully satisfying but open-ended enough that we know (nay, we hope) there is more to come! A couple of the mean dudes have simply vanished into hiding (you don't suppose they'll be back, do you?). Bartimaeus has been dismissed in a cloud of misty smoke and brimstone to his own spirit world and Nathaniel clearly begins to struggle with much more adult ideas of what must be done with his new found reputation, position and rapidly advancing skills and powers.

The Amulet of Samarkand is a delicious, fast-paced lightweight reading confection that can be recommended to readers of all ages. I'm off to find a copy of The Golem's Eye.

Paul Weiss

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More The Amulet of Samarkand reviews
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2011
Much more than a mere Harry Potter wannabe knock-off, The Amulet of Samarkand treats us not only to a blazing quick page turner but also throws in a generous helping of more adult issues.
review by . November 22, 2005
The boy Nathaniel is a wizard's apprentice in a London ruled by magicians (shades of Harry Potter and Christopher Moore's "Practical Demonkeeping," not to mention Randall Garrett's stuffy old Lord Darcy). London itself is decadent, its libraries abandoned and decaying. A class war between the Muggles--excuse me, Commoners--- and their magician lords has reached the stage where bombs are thrown into Westminster Abbey, the magicians' seat-of-power.     While this book isn't packed …
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Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #7
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the "ultimate sacrifice" for a "noble destiny." If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn't tough enough, Nathaniel's master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy's only saving grace is the master's wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine. In British author Jonathan Stroud's excellent novel, the first of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the story switches back and forth from Bartimaeus's first-person point of view to third-person narrative about ...

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ISBN-10: 078681859X
ISBN-13: 978-0786818594
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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